March 28, 2009

Virgin Galactic readying for Space Tourists

TECHNOLOGY - Officials at Sweden’s Ice Hotel have announced a partnership with Virgin Galactic (owned by Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Airlines and Virgin Mobile) which will allow it to sell tickets into space to space tourists.

The trips, which are expected to take in the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), are scheduled to depart from the new spaceport in Koruna, northern Sweden, in 2012 and will allow passengers the chance to fly through either the northern lights during the winter, or the endless sun of the Arctic summer.

Virgin began the search for accredited space agents this January and the Ice Hotel will be ready to start taking Virgin Galactic inquiries and bookings as soon as specific training is completed.

Sir Richard Branson’s space venture has yet to fly a commercial flight, Virgin Galactic are already expanding their routes due to high demand. Virgin Galactic has already made £20 million in bookings and passengers (over 200 of them) are requesting new routes.

Virgin Galactic has another spaceport in New Mexico, where they are testing and designing the first spacecraft designed to make regular sub-orbital flights into space.

The 200+ would-be astronauts have paid deposits of £100,000 for the two-and-a-half hour long flights, and include celebrities Paris Hilton, Moby, Sigourney Weaver and scientist Stephen Hawking.

New Mexico flights are set to begin in 2011 and Swedish flights to begin in 2012.

Tourist space flights are currently also offered by Space Adventures, which has thus far sent former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi and South African businessman Mark Shuttleworth, into space for millions of dollars.

Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) space launch vehicle was christened "Eve" (after Sir Richard Branson's mother), will lift the space-going rocket (known as SpaceShipTwo) to 50,000 feet, at which point the rocket will launch, and later return to earth like a space shuttle does.

So what will be the christened name of SpaceShipTwo? Adam seems like a good choice.

See Also:
Branson offers a $25 million prize for reducing global warming
Xcor Spaceship Unveiled

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